Apple is ramping up its work on self-driving cars. The Silicon Valley tech company has reportedly increased its autonomous fleet of test vehicles to 27.
According to Bloomberg Apple has registered another 24 Lexus RX450h SUVs. This increases their test driving fleet nearly ten-fold; the company obtained a permit for three autonomous cars from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in April 2017.
Tech Crunch notes the Lexus SUVs are popular among companies interested in self-driving vehicles. The SUVs are easily retrofitted with additional sensors that work seamlessly with those already installed.
Apple’s initial permit prompted speculation that the company would be designing their own autonomous car under the name “Project Titan.” While the company’s recent direction hasn’t eliminated that possibility, it’s clear that Apple is more focused on self-driving software than designing actual vehicles.
“We are very focused on autonomous systems,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said to investors in August 2017. “We do have a large project going, and are making a big investment in this. From our point of view, autonomy is sort of the mother of all AI projects.”
Apple has a lot of work to do if it wants to compete with other companies in the self-driving car industry. Tesla already sells vehicles with semi autonomous systems, while automakers like General Motors are already giving rides in their self-driving cars.
Meanwhile, Google and Waymo are testing their autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Minivan in San Francisco, and have plans to launch their own ride-hailing service. It won’t be the only autonomous taxi service around, however, as Uber will be joining the race for driverless cabs in 2019. Even a few Lyft-branded vehicles were making the rounds around CES 2018.
That said, it’s not as if Apple hasn’t been testing vehicles. The company’s autonomous Lexus SUVs were spotted on the road last year. But a larger Apple fleet will likely lead to more public sightings.
When Apple is finally ready to unveil their self-driving technology to the public, it’s likely to incorporate other Apple products, especially Siri, into the design. After all, nothing says self-driving cars like an AI assistant that speaks to the driver and passengers.